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Ive actually lost track of how many times Ive read this book or at least portions of it. In college I was a huge Eliade fan—my advisor was a student of his, after all—and indeed, when it comes to the analysis of mythology across cultures, he is the giant in whose shadow everyone labors. This is one of the strengths as well as weaknesses of the book.
For the armchair theologian or philosopher, constant allusions to yogic parallels in other cultures—for example, among Inuit shamans—can provide illumination, but it is likely to distract or tire someone who wants to learn something useful from yoga. Downward dog, anyone? Eliade is clearly most interested in yoga as an exemplary phenomenon of homo religiosus rather than as a practice he or anyone else might seriously take up in their spare time, and this fact has to be borne in mind when venturing into the text.
First the strong points. When one considers the paucity of Western materials he had to work with this back in the thirties and forties , the accomplishment is all the more stunning. A review of the bibliography, for example, shows how reliant he was on texts produced by Indians. He went the extra mile too, traveling to India to study under Surendranath Dasgupta, one of the great scholars of Indian philosophy of the twentieth century.
Eliade mastered Sanskrit and so was able to read and interpret source materials first hand. He also spent six months in an ashram much of that time in tantric dalliance with a South African dakini , and this no doubt helped him with some insight into the yogic life. Eliade was, however, not so much a yogin as a scholar of vast erudition, and that erudition is everywhere on display, especially in his marshalling of enormous quantities of facts and insights on yoga, Hinduism, mythology, and the meaning of spirituality.
This really is why someone today should read Eliade. If you have the time and patience you will learn innumerable things you never expected to learn, about so many obscure texts and cults, about the mishmash of ideologies and practices that somehow became Hinduism. As the preeminent scholar of comparative religion, he is able to relate all these seemingly disparate phenomena to others around the globe, thereby offering a broad picture of his subject as an example of human spirituality as opposed to simply some weird Indian cultural product.
It is simply rare than anyone can actually master such a significant body of material and present it coherently and with insight. For understanding yoga in its larger, human context, this book is still one that should be read.
As noted, though, it has its drawbacks. He also has an irritating propensity for obscure words and neologisms like homology, enstasis, hierophany, as well as an excessive fondness for Greco-Latin phrases. Eliade himself acknowledged this shortcoming in his autobiography: "The writing went hard at first, requiring more effort than I had anticipated, and I wondered what was wrong with me. Why was I making such slow progress, and why was I writing such strident prose, studded with unnecessary neologisms, with a pretentious, artificial, aggressive syntax?
As I said: Patience! Style aside, there are other problems. The book, which stands as something of a general history of yoga in Hinduism, is arranged in a decidedly non-chronological fashion. Finally, my chronic complaint about scholars rears its ugly head once again—the difference between textual insights and insights born of practice.
Oh, how I could wax poetic on the misunderstandings embodied in this passage! Sabbe dhamma anatta. Either way, it is simply one more cautionary note to carry into this important and worthy book.
Yoga. Nemurire si libertate ed.2017 - Mircea Eliade
Yoga: nemurire și libertate
Yoga. Nemurire si libertate - Mircea Eliade